The Brief | March 4, 2020

The Brief: Call to action for ImpactAlpha U, dealmaking in the creative economy, smallholder warehouses in India, Jay-Z’s venture fund, follow the talent scoops

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

ImpactAlpha U: Call to action. We’re rounding up resources and building capacity in advance of ImpactAlpha’s Agents of Impact Call No. 13, where faculty, students and firms will discuss the sustainable finance and impact investing disruption of MBA and other graduate programs. Here’s how to participate:

  • Do you teach sustainable finance or impact investing? Get discounted school and campus-wide library access to ImpactAlpha for faculty and students through our Agents of Impact Scholarship Fund, supported by Rockefeller Foundation. Harvard, Yale, Tufts, Duke, Wharton, McCombs, Kellogg, MIT, NYU, Oxford, University of Cape Town, Georgetown and other universities are using ImpactAlpha as a teaching and career tool. Help your campus get on board. Email [email protected].
  • Is your firm seeking impact talent? Send links to internships, jobs, fellowships, challenges and other opportunities for students and graduates. We’ll round them up and share with our many student subscribers. Email [email protected] (or just hit “reply”).
  • Are you a talented young professional? Let us know how you’re using ImpactAlpha in your education or career. Suggest provocative questions to take up on The Call. And round up your classmates to bring ImpactAlpha to your campus and library. Find out how by emailing [email protected].
  • Are you an Agent of Impact? Join ImpactAlpha’s subscriber-only Call No. 13, next Thursday, March 12, at 10am San Francisco / 1pm New York / 5pm London / 7pm Cape Town (note daylight savings time changes). Note: Students are welcome to join for free. RSVP today.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

U.K.’s Nesta raises £20 million impact fund for culture and the creative arts. The creative economy in the U.K. contributes more than $10 billion and generates some 364,000 jobs. Nesta’s new £20 million ($25.6 million) Arts & Culture Impact Fund will make affordable and flexible loans of up to £1 million to arts and heritage organizations, theaters, museums, comedy clubs, music venues and libraries. The endowment-supported foundation is seeking to bridge an annual lending gap estimated at £62 million for U.K. arts organizations that banks consider too risky (see, A catalytic loan fund helps arts and cultural organizations thrive in Chicago). Nesta seeded the fund with £6 million and raised the rest from a mix of public, private and philanthropic and private investors, including the Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bank of America, Big Society Capital and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. “Impact loans are an under-explored way of supporting the arts and cultural sectors,” said Nesta’s Francesca Sanderson. The arts, adds Big Society Capital’s Anna Shiel, “play an important role in building stronger and more inclusive communities.”

  • Cultural impact. The new fund builds on Nesta’s £3.7 million Cultural Impact Development Fund and the more than £7 million Arts Impact Fund (see, More than 100 funds that are investing in the creative economy). The two earlier funds have made 30 loans totaling £9.1 million since 2015. A loan to Fareham-based Titchfield Festival Theatre, for example, financed energy-saving retrofits that helped the theatre save money, double its income, and grow to one of the largest community and amateur theaters in Europe.
  • Proof points. The funds “validate the opportunity to generate impact and financial return in the creative economy,” Upstart Co-Lab’s Laura Callanan told ImpactAlpha. The U.K. led the early wave of impact investing and brought social impact bonds to social services, criminal justice reform and health, says Callanan. “Now, again, they are defining what’s next: harnessing the power of art, design, culture, heritage and creativity to make money and make change.”
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Art for Redemption secures early funding to launch marketplace for prison art. More than two million people are incarcerated in the U.S., exacting an economic toll on individuals, families and communities. “It isn’t just the individuals doing time, it’s the families too,” says Buck Adams, who founded Art for Redemption to help inmates support themselves and their families by selling their art. Adams, who was formerly incarcerated at Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Colorado, has secured $100,000 from Colorado-based angel investor group Rockies Venture Club and its donor advised fund, Rockies Impact Fund, to build out the platform and source, list and warehouse artists’ pieces. “It’s a unique concept and a unique approach to curbing recidivism” says Rockies Venture Club’s Dave Harris.

  • Art houses. California’s San Quentin State Prison allows inmates to showcase and sell their works to the public. The CellHouse in Canon City, Colo. sold products made by inmates in Colorado’s prison system before closing down last year. “This has been done before, but on a mom-and-pop level,” says Adams. “A marketplace lets us do this at scale.” Depending on the programs offered at each facility, artists’ mediums can range from drawings and watercolors to wood and welded sculptures.
  • Buy one, give one. Art for Redemption is developing a coffee table book of prison art for its launch on Kickstarter in May. For each copy purchased, one will be sent to one of 3,800 prison wardens in the U.S. as an advocacy tool for prison art programs.
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Omnivore invests in Arya to provide warehouses for smallholder farmers. India-based Arya supports smallholder farmers in getting their goods to market by providing warehousing facilities that are often unavailable to small producers. It also offers farmer financing backed by warehouse receipts. Impact investor Omnivore invested in the company’s $6 million funding round alongside LGT Lightstone Aspada (see, LGT acquires Aspada from Soros). “The Arya team is transforming agri-storage and financing across rural India, making small-scale warehousing viable at the village level, which farmers desperately require,” said Omnivore’s Jinesh Shah.

  • Indian agtech. Arya is Omnivore’s third deal of the year. It also invested in Clover, which supports India’s greenhouse-based farmers, and online food marketplace TechnifyBiz. The agrifood tech-focused impact investor plans to close a half-dozen deals in total this year from its $97 million second fund.
  • Changing startup landscape. Omnivore’s Mark Kahn told ImpactAlpha that India’s agrifood tech scene is seeing better dealflow and more experienced entrepreneurs. “The startup ecosystem is much bigger than it was in 2013, during our early days,” he says. Many founders have previous startup experience, “or they have excellent corporate pedigrees, like the Arya founders.”
  • Read on.

Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners raises $85 million from 54 investors. The firm, co-founded by Shawn Carter (Jay-Z), Jay Brown and Larry Marcus, has made six investments, which include electric mobility company Wheels, plant-based food company Impossible Foods and Rihanna’s lingerie line, Savage X Fenty. Marcy Ventures’ says its portfolio companies “embrace positive values including sustainability, empowerment, inclusivity, accessibility, convenience, health and wellness, and personal expression.”

SIMA raises $90 million for off-grid solar and financial access in Africa and South Asia. The U.S. Development Finance Corp., Church Pension Group, AXA, Metlife, Mercy Investment Services, Heifer Foundation, Wallace Global Fund and others backed Social Investment Managers and Advisors’ senior debt fund.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures leads $20 million funding for C16 Biosciences’ synthetic palm oil. The New York-based startup converts food waste and industrial byproducts into sustainable alternatives for palm oil, which has grown to a $93 billion market.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Cristina Shapiro, who led Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative, is the new president of Unicef’s Bridge Fund… Adam Heltzer is leaving Partners Group to head ESG investing at Ares Management… Kristina Dixon, ex- of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, joins Nonprofit Finance Fund as chief financial officer… Journalist Devin Thorpe is running for Congress as a Democrat in Utah’s 3rd District… KKR is hiring a vice president of global impact in New York… Karma is looking for an associate editor and an impact reporter in New York… NewImpact seeks an impact innovation strategist in Seattle.

Thank you for reading.

–Mar. 4, 2020